jet ski brakes

Do Jet Skis Have Brakes? (How Do They Stop?)

Considering that most people are only familiar with cars as far as operating vehicles is concerned, it’s no surprise that most people look to that experience when considering other vehicles, even those like jet skis. Surely, the manner of stopping for a jet ski is to use brakes, just like cars, right?

Actually, jet skis do not have brakes. In fact, no aquatic vessel has brakes, as they are simply not needed in order to stop such vehicles. Jet skis, like all boats, come to a stop simply by turning off their means of propulsion, then allowing friction from contact with the water to slow them down. In some cases, they may use reverse propulsion to accelerate the process.

In order to understand how all of this works, we will have to talk a bit about science, but don’t worry: we’ll keep it as simple as you remember from your school days. It’s mostly just simple physics.

Understanding the Physics of Stopping a Vehicle

Most people at least remember this law from Isaac Newton: objects in motion stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force. Some may assume that, in the case of a moving vehicle, the brakes are the outside force that stops it from continuing its forward motion. While this is true, an even more important factor is friction.

When two surfaces move across one another, this creates friction. Friction will gradually slow any vehicle to a halt if that vehicle is no longer being propelled through other means (such as a car’s engine or gravity). If you were driving along on a straight road at 60 miles an hour, then took your foot off the gas and didn’t touch the brakes, the car would stop eventually.

Learn more about water in Jet Ski engine.

That is due to the friction created by the car passing through the air and from the contact between its tires and the road. Brakes are not necessary to stop a car from moving, they are simply necessary to stop a car from moving quickly. That’s important because cars are often operating at high speeds and close to one another, so quick stops are needed.

Jet skis are not in a similar position. There are many reasons why jet skis don’t really need brakes, and why they are more than easy enough to stop without them without serious danger. Brakes would really only be needed in a bad situation that was brought about by poor practice from the rider of the jet ski.

Jet Ski

Why Jet Skis Don’t Need Brakes

The main reason aquatic vehicles like jet skis don’t need brakes is that water is very dense. It slows down objects moving through it very quickly. Just think of how fast you can run normally, and compare it to how slow you move when trying to do the same thing in water. Even bullets are slowed down in mere feet when entering the water.

Of course, that’s when one is submerged in water, but even when you are just making contact with the surface of water, its density swiftly slows down vehicles that aren’t being propelled through it by a greater force. A jet ski, which is not really that large or powerful, will be slowed down very quickly by water friction when it’s not being propelled.

On top of that, unlike the situation with cars, jet skis don’t really need to stop all that fast in most cases. There’s much less to hit out in the open water, and even at the top speeds that some jet skis can reach (approximately 70 mph), the risk of injury is much less for operators, as hitting water below a certain speed is much safer than hitting, say, concrete.

All of that said, there are some situations in which a jet ski might need to stop very suddenly, but these situations are generally due to the rider being reckless or unsafe, such as driving directly towards people, boats, or land. As long as one rides responsibly, there should be little need to come to a sudden stop. But what if you need to?

How Jet Skis Stop Quickly

Nine times out of ten, stopping a jet ski will be more about cutting back the throttle and allowing the vehicle to coast to a stop. However, that kind of thing will generally require a certain amount of distance (think of how a car still needs a few feet to stop even when you slam on brakes). What do you do if you need to stop as fast as possible?

How Jet Skis Stop Quickly

While the effect is certainly not the same as the brakes on a car, a jet ski has a somewhat similar method of decelerating more quickly, and that is putting the thrust into reverse. By reversing the thrust of the jet ski, it will begin to push against the forward momentum built up to that point.

By actively pushing back against the forward momentum of the jet ski, it will be able to come to a stop even faster than when it is simply allowed to coast to a stop. However, this is not like slamming on the brakes in a car. The jet ski is still not going to come to a stop in a few feet, though it will come to a stop sooner.

If need be, the driver could also turn the jet ski to the side to not only try to avoid whatever they are about to collide with, but to even further slow down their momentum by turning a large surface area of the jet ski into the path of its momentum. It’s quite similar to turning hard with a car: the sideways position would help slow it down.

Are Jet Skis Dangerous Because They Don’t Have Brakes?

Jet skis are not inherently dangerous due to their lack of brakes. As mentioned previously, there’s usually not a lot to hit on the open ocean, and even at top speed, a person hitting the water is not as dangerous as most other surfaces. A jet ski is really only as dangerous as the rider makes it. This means that safe riding should be practiced.

For one, you do not have to go the top speed of the jet ski, so if you are worried about coming to a stop quickly, simply ride slower. Second, you should not be driving the jet ski at a high speed towards anything in close proximity, be it another jet ski, a boat, a person, or even the land. You should slow down long in advance in such scenarios.

People often ride jet skis together with friends or family, and this means being in somewhat close proximity to each other. If riding at a decent speed, it can be difficult to communicate with one another, but that just means that you should lay ground rules before going out on the jet skis at all. You are supposed to have fun, but don’t be reckless.

Don’t make sudden movements towards your fellow riders, or attempt to pass in front of them for any reason. Even if you think you have more than enough space to do so, it is safer to avoid such reckless behavior. Do not ride the jet ski directly at anyone at a high speed either. 


Jet skis are capable of going quite fast, but they don’t have any brakes. This may seem like poor design, but without a means of propulsion driving the jet ski forward, the friction between the vehicle and the surface of the water will slow it down relatively quickly. However, you can reverse the thrust to slow down even faster.

A jet ski needs a little bit of room to stop since it can only stop by coasting. However, this just means that one should always seek to operate the vehicle as safely as possible. Never approach an object that you could collide with at a high speed, which increases the chances that you will need to come to a sudden stop that the jet ski cannot manage.

Jet skis are meant to be fun, but in order to be both fun and safe, it mostly falls on the behavior of the rider. Do your best to have fun in a controlled manner that does not endanger yourself or others, since jet ski brakes are unavailable to you.

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